All sectors have been impacted by COVID-19 in one way or another, not least the farming industry. This comes at a time where there is already much reform and changes to farming occurring, including the Basic Payment Scheme (BPS), a system of rural grants and payments that provide help to the farming industry.
What Changes to Farming Can We Expect?
Whilst the rules will vary in each of the four nations of the UK, in England, the Agriculture Bill will see a seven-year transition period during which BPS payments will be removed and new policies introduced. The reductions in BPS payments start in 2021, with BPS ending completely by 2027. The amount of the reductions is unknown but we know from an article produced by the Country Land and Business Association (CLA) that the CLA is lobbying for “shallow cuts in the early part of the transition to help businesses adapt”.
BPS is significant as many farmers rely on it for profitability. Whilst replacement schemes will come into force, details are unknown and many farmers will want to think about diversifying to supplement their income.
Over the last few years, there have been changes to planning rules. Farmers have taken advantage of this and converted redundant barns for alternative uses including offices and holiday lets. The sting in the tail hitting the office sector from COVID-19 is that many people are currently working from home and, in the wake of government restrictions, the tourism business has also been hit. Many will want to weigh up the benefits of continuing to let properties under their current use against alternative uses such as private residential lets. Any proposed changes must be subject to planning, legal and tax advice.
Only time will tell whether there is to be a shift in the use of redundant farm buildings and the impact on farming from the Agriculture Bill. In the meantime, we continue to deal with farm sales and purchases and are on hand to give legal advice on the law as it stands. We offer a collaborative approach and work with other professionals to ensure that long-term concerns are addressed.